Drew Brees is 417 yards from Peyton Manning's all-time passing yardage record

Eric AdelsonColumnist

One game at a time is the oldest of sports clichés. In one respect, the New Orleans Saints have torched it.

Even before the season began, the Saints were looking ahead to the passing records in Drew Brees‘ path.

Specifically: the all-time yards mark. Brees is now 417 yards shy of the record, 71,940, held by Peyton Manning. He could catch No. 18 as soon as this weekend.

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“He will pass Peyton Manning. I take that on,” said receiver Michael Thomas after a preseason game in Jacksonville last month. “The rest of the guys on the offense – we’re going to make sure he gets it, and that he’s able to do those things and win games. We have his back. We’re excited for us, for all the history that’s laid out in front of us that we have a chance to beat. We take a lot of pride in it.”

Three games into the regular season, Thomas has come through in historic fashion, catching more passes in the first three games of a season than any other receiver in NFL history. He’s reeled in 38 of 40 passes thrown his way. Per NOLA.com, that’s the highest catch rate since the NFL started tracking the stat.

What’s funny and a little bit stunning is that Thomas called his shot. This is what he said back in August about Brees:

“He knows what he wants, knows where he wants you to be. So if you just listen and take heed, nine times out of 10 you’re going to be successful.”

And now his catch rate is north of nine out of 10.

Meanwhile Brees’ completion percentage is currently north of 80 percent, which would be a record if it holds. The current record was set last season … by Drew Brees. (The quarterbacks in third and fourth place? Also Drew Brees.)

“He’s the best QB in the game,” Thomas said in August. “He accelerates a young guy’s career. I think that’s why a lot of young guys come in and play right away, contribute right away.”

Brees to Thomas for the record: Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL record for pass completions on Sunday. (AP)
Brees to Thomas for the record: Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL record for pass completions on Sunday. (AP)

And that’s also why there’s such an intense loyalty, and a vocal desire to literally grab record after record for him.

“We want to get that done for Drew,” Thomas said. “All the respect we have for him. Whatever are the records out there, we want to help him reach that, max out all his potential, with everything he’s given to the game. We want to max him out.”

It was Thomas who helped Brees break a record last weekend. In the second quarter, a pass to Thomas broke the record for all-time completions, eclipsing Brett Favre’s 6,300 mark. Thomas says he has a celebration planned for when the yardage record falls – just in case he gets the milestone throw. He’s spent that much time thinking about a game that’s nearly halfway through the season.

Granted, it’s not completely selfless on his part. Asked what he’ll do if he’s the one who catches the record-breaker, Thomas was ready with an answer:

“He’ll have to cut me a deal on how to get the ball back.”

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